If you took a second to close your eyes and think about Star Wars, what are you thinking about? What do you hear laser beams, lightsabers, possibly a dramatic score by John Williams? For major pop culture films, music plays an important role in developing the themes and tone of production.
For scores of a more subtle kind, or even for commercial work, music still shapes how we perceive the visual images on screen.
For example, imagine a scene in which our main character is walking through a field. The brush is big and they run fast with no clear emotions on the face. In the background you can hear a brooding horror soundtrack with high-pitched violins and a soft rumble. How do you feel for our actor? Scared or worried?
Now imagine the same scene with our actor running through the field, but this time it creates an inspiring action soundtrack. Triumphant brass and orchestra take charge and sound just like your favorite superhero movie. What do you feel now Probably something different from our last example.
Although the change in soundtrack for our scene was subtle, the interpretation of the scene changed dramatically. The same principle applies to all films – whether it's a toothpaste commercial or a blockbuster hit. If you're looking for great commercial music, Music in stock subscription or library locations can be good choices. The next time you're making the next Avengers movie, be sure to hire a professional composer.
Here is my favorite video on how music affects all types of filmmaking:
But what about removing music together? Now that we know changing a soundtrack can change the scene, will removing it do the same? In short, the answer is yes. While there are many wonderful silent films out there, most films require a score. Do not you believe me? Let's close that circle and look at an iconic scene from Star Wars at the end of The Force Awakens, in which Rey climbs to the top of the island to meet Luke Skywalker for the first time.
I choose this scene because there is almost no dialogue for the entire 3 minute scene and John Williams doing his score doing most of the conversation. I found two clips of this scene, one with and without music, and I think this is going to blow your mind. Pay special attention to how awkward and strange the last 30 seconds are compared to the score version. The recorded version is powerful and literally shows how music creates its own language and emotion.
Without a score:
Music plays more with emotion than you might think, and when it comes to filmmaking, it's one of the essential things that can really make or break a production. The next time you're looking for production music, take your time and think about how your viewer can interpret your scene based on the supporting music.
About Steven Howsley
A lover of arts and science, Steven Howsley is an indie musician / composer working as Lowbridge and the owner of the music subscription site songtub.com.